Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Peaceful and Prepared

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Leslie Basham: Taking the time to arrange your personal finances now is a gift to your family for the future. Here’s Lisa Hagenauer.

Lisa Hagenauer: That stewardship portion and that taking care of your family in that family unit and preserving that relationship, those are the two paramount things that you’re really trying to do. That’s why it’s such a gift to do it.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, co-author of True Woman 201, for August 23, 2018.

All this week Nancy has been addressing why you should be a wise steward of the resources God has entrusted to you. Not only will your family reap the benefits, but it’s also a way to honor the Lord in all you do.

If you missed a previous program in the series, you can go to ReviveOurHearts.com to listen to the audio or read the transcript. Now, Nancy’s here to continue the conversation, along with her friend Karen Melby.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: I’m so thankful for this discussion that we’ve been having this week with my longtime friend, Karen Melby, who’s been widowed within the last couple of years and is carrying on without her precious Scott—who, by the way, was a member of the Advisory Board of Revive Our Hearts.

Karen, I can remember the three of us sitting on the back porch of your home at Maranatha Conference Center, talking about the ministry. You guys loved Revive Our Hearts. You were such encouragers to me, and you always asked great questions about how my own soul was doing, how the ministry was going, how you could encourage us.

Even as we’re sitting here, I can picture Scott in those Board meetings with us and being such a gift and an encourager. In the Lord’s providence we can’t figure it out, we don’t know why, but the Lord took him after a long, hard battle with leukemia at age fifty-six. You were fifty-three.

And yet God has graced you in amazing ways during that journey—and since—to carry on. You’re not just collapsing in a heap of futility and being overwhelmed, but you’re responding with grace . . . and leading your family. You’ve got two kids getting married. You’ve got grandkids coming now. You are moving on and serving the Lord as you and Scott did together.

It’s been a really sweet—sad—thing to watch you guys go through this, but really sweet to see God be a husband to this widow, as He promised to be. You’ve been a part of this conversation, and I’m so grateful for that.

And then Lisa and Andrea, who have professional backgrounds—Lisa as an estate planning and probate attorney, Andrea as a financial advisor. And for some of us people who don’t come from those backgrounds, this can sound really complicated, really difficult.

But I want to say how grateful I am and what a gift it is to have believers who care about God’s values, kingdom values, and who make yourselves available to serve people like me who don’t know these fields. You help us be better prepared to carried on, because death is coming. We don’t know when; we don’t know who will go first.

There’s a lot we can’t plan, but we can at least have some things in place that will leave less devastation to those who are left behind and can bring peace of mind in the meantime.

Today we want to talk about what, Andrea and Lisa, you have said are three really big things you want to be sure you have in place. Andrea, you said when people come to you for financial planning help you start the dialogue by asking, “Do you have these things in place?” Then you find out what they still need.

Andrea Karsten: Absolutely! There’s a lot that we try and determine when we meet with clients early on, but among the questions that we have for them is, “What is your estate plan?” And really what I mean by that is, “Do you have a will, and do you have those people in place to help make decisions when you cannot?”

And those are documents that are done and drafted, often, by an estate planning attorney. They are very specific documents, they are legal documents that have to be drafted. And so I need to know those elements.

Nancy: So there’s the will or the trust (and these all inter-relate, they blend in together). They need an estate attorney, or if it’s very, very simple, in some cases that could be done online. And online, you can find out information about what you really need, depending on the complexity of your situation.

But then there are a couple of Power of Attorney situations. Tell us what those are and then let’s unpack what they mean.

Lisa: Yes, and to your point, too, Nancy, on the will and talking about doing it online, it’s so much better to have something rather than nothing! So I really encourage people, if you say, “I can’t afford it,” there are resources out there.

Start with your church, see what you can get done. People are willing to help. And if you feel like you can’t, and you don’t have that ability, then going online and having something in place is definitely better than nothing. So I think that’s important to know.

Those are the three basic things that we do for most of our clients: a will or a trust or some variance in-between.

Nancy: And when you say “a will or a trust,” what’s going to be the basic difference there?

Lisa: The basic difference is going to be: a trust, you can control more. A trust also gives some power during life, where you can take care of yourself and others can take care of you during life. A will really doesn’t really to kick in until after you’ve passed away.

A trust allows you to provide more details:

  • When people get things.
  • How they get it.
  • There can be different types of tax planning or charitable planning over a time.
  • If you have special-needs kids or you have someone who has something else you’re trying to protect against, then you can control it more.

With a will, when you pass away it says, “Here’s where everything goes, and it goes to those people.” Whether they’re able to accept it or not, whether they’re able to manage it or not, all of it just gets distributed outright at the age of eighteen.

Nancy: So here’s where an estate planning attorney can help you think what would best serve your needs and those of your family situation.

Lisa: Right, exactly. With that simple will, again, if you have any special circumstances, it doesn’t really fit. A lot of times, if you have minor kids and they receive an inheritance, it has to go through the court process through a separate conservatorship where the court manages it until they’re eighteen. So all those types of things.

Having minor children is a very common situation where a simple will won’t help people. There’s variance of a will, a more complex will, that might take care of them, but that’s where it’s important to ask those questions.

Nancy: And then the second area, talk about the “Healthcare Power of Attorney.” What does that mean, what does that involve?

Lisa: Right. A Healthcare Power of Attorney is a document that we designate a person for you that’s going to make medical decisions for you if you can’t speak for yourself, or if you can’t communicate them for yourself.

Nancy: And this is really important today, where we have so many technological means of preserving life longer than would have been possible. There are tough decisions, ethically difficult decisions, medically complicated decisions that you may not be in a position to make for yourself.

Lisa: Right.

Nancy: So, when you appoint a Healthcare Power of Attorney, this person is going to do what?

Lisa: This person is going to be charged with the duty and the right of collecting all of that information from doctors and medical records and varying opinion, knowing what your desires are and your spiritual desires for life-sustaining treatment. Then that person weighs the benefits and the burdens of the proposed treatment, and then they make that decision. They get that final say.

Nancy: That person might be your mate.

Lisa: It might be.

Nancy: And is that what you and Scott did, Karen?

Karen: Yes, we actually did have that in place, thankfully.

Nancy: So when Scott got sick, were you his Healthcare POA?

Karen: Yes, I was.

Nancy: So he knew that there was someone who would have the authority, legally, to make decisions if he wasn’t able to make them for himself.

Karen: Right. We actually experienced witnessing on several occasions in the hospital . . . There were Scott’s neighbors, patients that were down the hall, that did not have a Medical Power of Attorney in place. The hospital was able to provide something. I don’t know what kind of document it was.

Lisa: Yes, there usually is . . .

Karen: Because we had been there so long and we were so familiar with the hospital staff, they would often call me or one of my children down because they needed another witness. You could wait until the last minute and do that in the hospital, but it was awkward, I think, for this family. They didn’t know what was happening, and they had to appoint somebody, and then our family walks in to their hospital room as complete strangers to just be a witness on a document. It’s very uncomfortable.

Nancy: And having to make that kind of decision when you’re super-stressed and stretched, how much harder is that?

Lisa: So much harder! That is a form, by the way, that hospitals will provide, assuming you have that time and you want to be making that decision at that time. You can go online and typically find the statutory form by just doing a Google search and fill that out on your own. It’s something that you can easily complete on your own.

Nancy: So if you’re a believer, a follower of Christ, you want to make sure that this person shares your heart, your values, and it’s somebody that you’re comfortable talking with in advance—where possible—so they know what you wish. Obviously, if you’re husband and wife, you’re going to be discussing this with each other.

But if you’re a widow and don’t have a mate to be that person, it might be a mature son or daughter, or close friend, but it seems like you would really want to make sure that they value life and have a perspective on life and death and suffering that would be compatible with yours. Because you can’t say exactly every possible situation in advance.

Lisa: Right, it’s impossible to actually know what will occur, so they have to know you well and your desires. They have to be willing to act on those, because, potentially, they might have different viewpoints.

Nancy: So they have to be trusted.

Lisa: They have to be trusted to be able to make those hard decisions and be capable. You might have a person: “Oh, for financial things, this person . . .” But that doesn’t mean they would actually be the appropriate person for medical decisions.

I have so many people who will say, “Well, I’m going to put my spouse, and then my kids in order of birth,” which is what people just assume they should do. Then you think, Well, John may be your oldest, but is he the one most capable of making that decision? Oftentimes it doesn’t follow in birth order. It’s important to consider the characteristics of the person you’re choosing.

Nancy: Their giftedness . . .

Lisa: . . . and their availability. Will they be able to be reached, and can they take that pressure and consider all that’s involved? Because they’ll have other people giving them their opinions, but it’s so important to have that one person that you can go to after all the discussion.

No one’s an island. The family will be discussing things. But you need someone that can say, “Here’s what we’re going to do.” Because there are a lot of situations we don’t anticipate, where people differ in their opinions, differ on their level of spirituality, differ on whether they’re able to let you go. So oftentimes, that’s something to consider as well, so it’s really important!

Nancy: Now, along with that person who has the Medical or Healthcare Power of Attorney, kind of a cousin to that is, you need to be thinking about what some people call “advanced directives.” How would you define, explain what that is basically?

Lisa: An advance directive is a document where you can indicate specifically what treatment you want or don’t want. For those people who are in a certain situation where, perhaps, they are terminal or they have some more information about an illness, that can be a helpful document.

For people who are healthy, completing the document is a little bit of a difficult thing, because it’s hard to say, “No, I don’t want CPR,” because you can’t anticipate the situation.

Nancy: So are you saying healthy people don’t need to have an advance directive?

Lisa: I would say healthy people only do the Healthcare Power of Attorney, which is the patient advocate designation, where you’re saying, “If I can’t choose or if I can’t communicate my decision, I want this person.” And have a successor, because that person might not be available.

It’s nice to have at least one successor of whom you can say, “I trust them to weigh all the information and make a decision that’s best.” We give some guidance, usually, in the document that can be personalized. You know, “Consider my suffering. Are you just prolonging the inevitable, or do I have a really good chance of recovery?” All of those types of things that you would want someone to consider.

Everyone’s a little different on that. Most of us come down around the same, but there are varying opinions and desires, and you want your desires to be honored—and you don’t want the family unit to break down in the process.

Nancy: Right.

Lisa: When you have “too many chefs in the kitchen,” I mean unfortunately, with something so emotional, it’s really hard!

Nancy: The way that modern medicine or modern popular opinion thinks about these things may be very different than the way you, a follower of Christ, think about these things.

Lisa: Absolutely!

Nancy: So I’ve been reading some recently (and again, it’s a little bit of another subject here, but) of a Christian perspective on these things. There are so many ethical issues and moral and spiritual issues that the whole end-of-life conversation raises that you have to think about. Thankfully, there are some good things out there that can help you think through that.

Now, there’s another kind of Power of Attorney that’s also important.

Lisa: Right. The third document that we often do is a Durable Power of Attorney for Property. That deals with anything that has to do with your finances: paying bills, investing money, assets, debts—anyone who has to act on your behalf.

I use this document for my mom on a regular basis because I help manage everything for her, and if the account is in her name they’re not going to talk to me or not to your spouse or to your sibling if you don’t have this Power of Attorney. So this is really important!

Nancy: So this is something you need while you’re living but when you aren’t able to make those decisions yourself.

Lisa: Right, and it could be that you’re not able to make decisions, or it could be that you just need help. My mom is perfectly capable of doing it, but I help her.

Nancy: So it gives you access to that information, to be able to help her.

Lisa: Exactly. So by definition, it’s only valid during life. Once the person passes away that document is no longer; it’s null and void. I run into that where people say, “So-and-so passed away, and I’m their Power of Attorney.” But that is a different issue. This is just a during-life document.

A common example would be, let’s say: Your husband has a retirement account and that is a contract with him individually. Even though you’re the spouse, you have no rights to that. If he is alive and incapacitated, and you need to access that money to pay bills, you’re not allowed to actually do that.

If you call an advisor and say, “Hey, I need this monthly distribution out, because I need to pay my bills,” that actually is something that cannot happen without a Power of Attorney or a court intervention. So that’s a really important document to have. It can be basic help. It can be something much more important, depending upon the circumstances.

Nancy: Karen, you were travelling not too long ago and you met somebody who, kind of in a humorous way, showed what happens if you don’t have this stuff in place.

Karen: It was on a family trip in Germany. We ran into a feisty German lady who was very endearing. We found out was that she was a recent widow. She invited us into her home for cake and coffee.

As we walked into her house, I noticed a lot of clear bags that were just filled with papers. She apologized all over the place for these clear bags. She said, “I’m so sorry, but this is just one week’s worth of purging my husband’s files!” She was working through all the paperwork, all the administrative things.

In the process of talking to her (I never said to her that I was a recent widow as well. I was just part of a group, and we were listening. She was entertaining us in her home.) She began to talk about her husband being in a hospital.

As he went in, he said, “Just make sure, Etta, that you never allow me to be hooked up to any machine that would save my life.” And she, in her feistiness, said, “I can’t do that because you have never given me the Power of Attorney or the Advance Directive! I have never been able to get you to sign anything that gives me that control!”

Nancy: So “You’re going to be on your own.”

Karen: She said, “As soon as you walk into the hospital, it’s out of my hands”—unless he was willing to sign a piece of paper that gave her that control.

Nancy: Wow! So she was trying to help him understand how important that was.

Karen: Yes. I was pondering this whole process of all the things that I was trying to understand, and learning about what it takes as a widow to move forward and be prepared to carry on.

It was one of those confirmations that, “My goodness! This conversation is not only needed in West Michigan, it’s needed all over the world!” My heart went out to Etta and what she was going through.

Nancy: Now your situation is changed, so now you need to be re-evaluating and re-thinking some of these things yourself. When you and Scott were both living, you had certain things in place, but now as a widow, you need some of those things in place in a little different way than you did before.

Karen: Yes, exactly. There are still things on my checklist.

Lisa: And she has a checklist.

Karen: As I listen to Lisa and Andrea, I’m like, “Oh, yeah, I’ve got to go back and do that!”

Nancy: I’m doing the same thing. My season of life has changed, going from single to married. Robert was married and then widowed and then remarried, so we’ve got some new things on our checklist.

Lisa: Yes, and it changes everything. It is important, I should note (in Michigan), we do have a statute that says if you don’t have a Healthcare Power of Attorney in place, who gets to make those healthcare decisions if you can’t. There’s an order of priority: spouse . . . depending on . . .

Nancy: Automatically, that kicks in?

Lisa: Yes, but let’s say if you’re at the adult children level, and you have five adult children. Sometimes it creates more problems. It’s much better to have that document that you can point to and say,

“We value everyone’s opinion here. We’re going to have this discussion, but at the end of the day, here is this person who is going to have to make the call”—as opposed to giving input from multiple people who come at it from their own life experiences and thought processes.

Nancy: That may be a hard decision to make right now or to communicate, but it’s less hard than trying to figure it out when you’re under the pressure of an incapacitated older parent. The family is—especially with so much brokenness in families and blended families and who does what, who decides what . . .

This can be the scene of a lot of contention if there hasn’t been some thought given to it. So avoiding it now, you’re going to have to deal with it later—when it’s harder.

Andrea: It is absolutely a gift to your families to have these documents in place. It just is a gift!

Lisa: When I’m thinking about planning the finances and all of that, planning for where money goes is so important. But for me (and I know for Andrea too), that stewardship portion and that taking care of your family and that family unit and preserving that relationship are the two paramount things that you’re really trying to do. That’s why it’s such a gift to do it.

Andrea: So where we can minimize issues? Where we can minimize the chaos? (That word we keep talking about.) It just benefits the family; it benefits the community, even.

Lisa: It does, and it’s a great starting point to talk about with your kids or your family—or whoever it may be. Talk about charitable giving and living life with an open hand so that money doesn’t control you. Talk about medical decisions and thoughts about death.

It just really makes it so much more palatable when the time comes, I think, when you know with confidence, “I honored this person’s desires, and I know how they felt about it.” Because even sometimes you still have those things you can’t foresee, where you think, Am I making the right decision?

If you’re starting with no information, without that gift of, “Here’s what I want when it comes to healthcare,” it just makes those decisions so much harder! And people struggle with making those decisions without having that.

So we should be all be talking with people we love about what we want and what they want and making it easier for everyone to discuss . . . because it will come.

Nancy: And talking with the Lord about it.

Lisa: Yes, praying about it!

Nancy: Thank God we have a Savior and a Father and a Shepherd who cares about these things! He doesn’t just care about our eternal life and our salvation of our souls. We are not disembodied spirits. We live in physical bodies that have been given to us by God. The Holy Spirit lives in these bodies, so what happens to them matters to Him.

This is not an unspiritual thing. I think we think, The stuff I do, that’s ministry, or The stuff I do that is serving others, that’s spiritual, but this stuff is unspiritual. This is not unspiritual. This is part of our (we keep using that word “stewardship”) being good caretakers of what God has entrusted to us—be it little or much, relatively speaking—and also caring for our families well.

I’m thinking about how those patriarchs and matriarchs, the older generation, how as they do this well . . . Now we’re becoming those matriarchs, sitting around this table. It used to be “them,” and now it’s “us.”

Lisa: Right. How did that happen?

Nancy: As we do this well, this is not only a gift we give our families (it’s hugely that!), but it’s also a model and an example we set for the next generation, those coming behind us, about what matters—about what we value, about what God values—and about how we look to Him for wisdom, about how we seek to make decisions that will honor Him.

They need to see us not just existing from day to day, surviving, floating through life, but being intentional (maybe that’s the word I’m wanting) about every part of our lives, wanting to do things in a way that is orderly, that is in the best interest of our family. This is a way we love them well, and it is a way that we speak truth into the next generation that’s for the good of their souls and their families as well.

We’re going to pick up this conversation one more day when we come back and just maybe tie a ribbon on some of this and talk about a couple of areas that we haven’t touched on as much. I know this has been encouraging for me; it’s been challenging for me.

Robert and I have a lot to talk about. In fact, I wish he could have been here today for this discussion, but he’ll be listening to it, and we’ll talking about it, because there are some areas we just need to be more intentional about.

Karen, you have challenged me, watching you and Scott go through this. You’re younger than I am.

Karen: Not by much.

Nancy: But, you know, you can think this doesn’t happen until later. It may be a long time from now, but it may not be. So let’s be prepared—preparing others around us for the ability to carry on when God has us in a place where we can’t or where we’ve gone on to heaven.

Be sure and join us for the next conversation here on Revive Our Hearts.

Leslie: That’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. She’s been talking to Lisa Hagenauer, Andrea Karsten, and Karen Melby about why it’s important to have a plan for your future. Does this conversation make you realize it’s time to put your own finances in order?

We know the process can be daunting, but you can do it! As you’re making your plan, don’t neglect the important area of giving. If there are ministries that have benefited your life, supporting them could be an important part of your legacy.

There are some tax benefits for giving, and to help you think it through, we’re giving you an online tool called My Legacy Planner. It’s a quick and easy way to assess your current situation and see how giving would affect your estate. It’s free, confidential, and takes less than ten minutes to complete.

To access this resource, visit ReviveOurHearts.com. We’ll include a link on today’s transcript. When you support Revive Our Hearts this week with a gift of any size, we’ll send you a book by a former guest on Revive Our Hearts, Margaret Nyman. It’s called Hope for an Aching Heart. It’s a devotional for widows. We’ll send it as a way to say “thanks.”

Ask for Hope for an Aching Heart when you call with your gift at 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

We’re called to be good stewards of what God has given us, but it’s important to step back and look at the big picture in order to know why that’s the case. Please be back tomorrow for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants you to know how to be prepared to carry on. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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